Hong Kong foreign domestic workers victimized by 'doxxing'

Jan Yumul, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 23 2019 11:08 PM | Updated as of Dec 24 2019 04:07 PM

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HONG KONG - The Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong has confirmed it has received a report on the exposure of personal details from passports and Hong Kong identity cards of Filipino domestic workers in a Facebook group.

The Facebook group allows dissatisfied employers to share their experiences with erring helpers. Indonesian migrant workers' personal details were also posted.

It is not known how many individuals have been affected as the Consulate is still gathering more information.

In an interview with ABS-CBN News, Consul Robert Quintin said there have been cases of individuals and referrals brought to their attention in the past, but "none on the scale involving a Facebook page or group dedicated only to apparently expose supposedly unscrupulous individuals" who have been ex-employees of these employers.

In the past, they have had to ask those involved to formally file complaints, but so far, Quintin said he does not recall any cases to have prospered as the individuals do not find it worthwhile.

"So for this case, we're hoping we could get some critical mass and you know, push the police to take action," said Quintin. "We were deeply concerned and we had to send a letter to the Commissioner of Police for them to look into the matter because as far as we're concerned, it's a direct violation of the personal data privacy ordinance of Hong Kong," he added.

The Police Public Relations Branch said it is also still gathering more information on the issue as of this writing.

Consul Robert Quintin. Jan Yumul, ABS-CBN News

Consul Quintin said they will still try to verify the identities of the Filipinos whose personal details have been exposed and will check if they are still working in Hong Kong. Some of the workers concerned, he said, have already been fired by their employers. 

For individuals who may not be aware that their data have been exposed, Consul Quintin says they will be contacting them through the Consulate's database. 

When asked what actions might the consulate possibly take if those ex-employers or existing employers are found to have possibly have violated the law or if they might be blacklisted, the Consul says they would determine the next steps after they receive a reply from the Hong Kong Police.

"We'll probably discuss in a meeting with the rest of the officers in the consulate how to move forward with this. But definitely we will need to have individual complaints to be filed," said Quintin.

Meanwhile, the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (PCPD) in Hong Kong told ABS-CBN News in an email response they have not received any complaint about the Facebook group concerned from the start of this year up to December 20.

"If personal data (obtained without the consent of the data users concerned) is disclosed for unlawful purposes of bullying, incitement and intimidation, and thereby causing psychological harm to the data subjects, persons engaging in such acts may have contravened a criminal offence under section 64 (2) of PDPO (i.e.“Offences for disclosing personal data obtained without consent from data users”)." said Stephen Kai-yi Wong, Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, Hong Kong.

Wong assures, the PCPD would investigate if there is sufficient evidence to suggest a breach of the Data Protection Principle by disclosing or using without consent a person's personal data for a purpose rather than that for which the personal was originally collected.

"Any person who believes that his personal data has been misused and can provide prima facie evidence may complain to the PCPD. Upon receipt of the complaint, the PCPD will handle and follow up the case according to PDPO and its Complaints Handling Policy with strict confidence," said Wong. 

"The PCPD would continue to monitor the said page closely and would take action in accordance with the PDPO," he added.

The latest high-profile victim of doxxing is no less than Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who, on Sunday expressed worries after her personal information was published in online messaging groups.

Lam said on her Facebook page she was not concerned about her own details being leaked as they had already been made public before, but expressed concern over doxxing's impact. This, amid anti-government demonstrations that have dragged on for almost seven months. The Chief Executive also called for vigilance. 

According to the Hong Kong privacy watchdog's October report, it has so far found, since June this year, 2,683 doxxing and cyber-bullying related cases, in which 13 online social platforms and discussion forums, and 2,145 web links were involved.

Those who would like to complain to the PCPD may lodge his / her complaint through
the following channels:

-via post or in person: Address: Room 1303, 13/F, Sunlight Tower, 248 Queen's Road East, Wanchai,

Hong Kong

- via fax: (852) 2877 7026

- via email: [email protected]

- via online complaint form:

https://www.pcpd.org.hk/english/complaints/how_complaint/complaint/files/OPS001_e.pdf